Curral das Freiras (also known as Nun’s Valley or Valley of the Nuns) is one of the most popular Madeira day trips, and the easy(ish) downhill hike along the Nuns’ Path from the Eira do Serrado viewpoint is a wonderful way to see it.
In this article you’ll find everything you need to know about walking the Nuns’ Path from Eira do Serrado to Curral das Freiras, including how to get there from Madeira’s capital, Funchal, what to expect and what you’ll see along the way.
At a glance
- The Nuns’ Path hike from the Eira do Serrado viewpoint to Curral das Freiras (Valley of the Nuns) is an easy, 1 to 2-hour walk
- The narrow path zig-zags down the mountain, giving amazing views
- Both the start and end of the hike are on bus routes to and from Funchal
Why you should do this walk from Eira do Serrado to Curral das Freiras
A trip to Nun’s Valley is one of the top things to do in Madeira, and for good reason. The charming little village in a beautiful valley, high in Madeira’s mountains is an unmissable sight, but did you know that you can get even better views on an easy(ish) walk down from the Eira do Serrado viewpoint?
The Eira do Serrado viewing platform is 1095 metres above sea level and has wonderful, near-360 degree views of the surrounding mountains and down into the valley.
As you walk down to Curral das Freiras, you’ll descend all the way down into the valley below; I loved seeing the little dots I’d seen from the top of the mountain become buildings, then houses, and seeing the mountain peak I’d stood on disappear into the clouds.
When I visited Madeira in February 2023, this walk between Eira do Serrado and Nun’s Valley was one of my favourite day trips, and as long as you’ve got a bit of a head for heights, you’ll love it too.
Things to do at Eira do Serrado
At the top of the hill you’ll find a small car park with space for around 20 cars, a taxi rank (there may or not be a taxi there), a souvenir shop and the Estalagem Eira do Serrado 4 star hotel.
There are toilets in the souvenir shop; you can either pay a small fee or buy something in the shop.
The short path up to the actual Eira do Serrado viewpoint starts just to the left of the hotel building and takes a paved, gently-sloped path around the mountain peak to the viewing platform on the other side. The viewpoint is completely free to visit.
My favourite thing about the viewpoint was the flowers at the top, then looking down and seeing a bus winding its way along the road at the bottom. It was so small, it looked like a toy.
The walk down from Eira do Serrado to Curral das Freiras
The walk down to the Valley of the Nuns starts from the right hand side of the hotel and souvenir shop. There’s a big signpost pointing down the trail, so you can’t really go wrong.
Starting the walk
The first part of the walk takes you through a small wood. It was February when I visited and there weren’t any leaves on the trees, but this part would be really pretty during the spring and summer.
The path starts with its hairpin bends straightaway – you’ll get used to these as you’re about to walk along what feels like hundreds of them on your way down the mountain!
Like a lot of the route, the path here is paved with little stones. At some points the path is unpaved, while where the incline is steeper, there are little steps. There are a few places where the path crosses small streams and where it can be a little muddy.
As you go down the path towards Nun’s Valley, you’ll need to watch your step but don’t miss out on the views. Seeing the valley open up in front of you is a wonderful experience, make sure to make the most of it!
Where to stop along the way
There aren’t many places to stop as you go down the mountain, but there are a couple of places to take a break. There’s a viewpoint on a little path of its own with a picnic bench, but there were already people there when we went past.
We eventually stopped to have our lunch at one of the hairpin bends about halfway down where there was a little grassy area and a rock to sit on.
Getting close to the Valley of the Nuns
On the lower parts of the trail, the path stops its regular hairpin bends and starts to meander gradually along the valley side. Finally, just before you reach the road, there’s a set of stone steps.
Reaching the road
The last part of the walk from Eira do Serrado to the Valley of the Nuns is along the main road. The path emerges on the roadside (Google Map link); from there it’s another half a mile (800m) to reach the village. There’s no dedicated path or pavement for pedestrians so look out for traffic.
Entering Curral das Freiras
There’s a little picnic area with gorgeous views at the entrance to the village, so if you’ve brought a packed lunch and haven’t eaten it yet, this might be a nice place to stop.
Otherwise, carry on into the village and treat yourself to some chestnut cake (a local speciality) at Restaurante Sabores do Curral, which has a fabulous rooftop terrace looking all the way down the valley. When I visited, it had started raining quite heavily at this point so we sat inside. The chestnut cake was delicious though!
Tips for your trip
How to get to Eira do Serrado
The Eira do Serrado viewpoint (Google Map link) is in the middle of the island of Madeira, 9 miles (14.2km) north west of Funchal.
The easiest way to do this trip is by taking the number 81 bus from Funchal’s Teleferico bus station (Google Maps link), but like all bus trips in Madeira, it takes a bit of planning.
There are lots of buses to Curral das Freiras from Funchal, but not all of them take the detour up to Eira do Serrado. There are three number 81 buses a day going directly to Eira do Serrado, at 9am, 10am and 11am. The bus ticket costs around €4; if you don’t have a bus pass you’ll need cash to pay for your ticket.
If the morning bus times don’t work for you, there is an early afternoon bus to Curral das Freiras; from there you can take another bus up to the Eira do Serrado viewpoint.
Alternatively, you may be better off taking a taxi to the trailhead. We ended up doing this by chance; we were staying out in the Lido area of Funchal and the bus we needed to take to the bus station didn’t turn up in time. Our taxi ride to Eira do Serrado cost around €25.
The quickest way to get to Eira do Serrado is by car, but I wouldn’t recommend driving here if you want to do the hike down to Nun’s Valley, as it’ll mean either walking back up to where you parked (hard pass from me!), a taxi ride or a potentially long wait in Curral das Freiras for a bus that comes back up this way.
On your way up the narrow road to the viewpoint, look out for signs of the old mountain road. Nun’s Valley isn’t quite as remote as it used to be, thanks to a tunnel through the mountain, but before this was built, a torturous route through the mountains was the only way in and out.
How to get back to Funchal from Curral das Freiras
Getting back to Funchal from Curral das Freiras is much easier than getting to Eira do Serrado. There’s a bus stop opposite the Sabores do Curral restaurant and buses run relatively regularly until about 2.30pm. After that there’s a 2 hour wait for the next bus.
There isn’t an awful lot to do in Curral das Freiras apart from look at the view, so it’s worth keeping an eye on the time if you want to catch an early afternoon bus.
The bus we got back to Funchal from Nun’s Valley took a very roundabout route (about half an hour into the journey we passed the bus stop where we’d got on!) then went all the way up to Eira do Serrado again. There were plenty of seats on the bus though and the views were still great.
What to wear
I walked the Nuns’ Path hike in jeans, a tshirt and trainers, but it would have been better to have the grip and ankle support of hiking boots.
Assuming you do the hike *down* to Nun’s Valley rather than up to Eira do Serrado, you’re going to be walking on an incline for almost the whole time, so I’d recommend wearing well broken-in shoes or boots that are a good fit for your feet. Boots that are too small or too loose are going to be tough on your toes!
We did this walk on a cloudy day that turned rainy by the time we reached Nun’s Valley, so I was glad I’d brought a raincoat. You should also make sure you have a sun hat with you as there isn’t much shade apart from at the very beginning and end of the hike.
What to bring
There are no facilities of any kind on the walk, so you’ll need to bring anything you’ll need for the 2 hour hike. For me that meant bringing plenty of water and some snacks. Our Madeira all-inclusive hotel allowed us to take a packed lunch away with us from breakfast, so we had a couple of boiled eggs each and a pastry or two.
Final thoughts: is the Nuns’ Path worth it?
Walking the path down to the Valley of the Nuns was one of my favourite day trips in Madeira. The views were out of this world and being out in the mountains was so relaxing.
The path is steep, but it is relatively easy walking. The combination of the height and the frequent switchbacks did get a little dizzying, but we took it nice and slow to take in the views.
This isn’t the easiest hike in Madeira (for that I’d suggest the gentle and flat Balcões de Ribeiro Frio levada walk) but walking downhill into the valley is far from strenuous. Going up is a different matter of course!
In summary, I’m really glad I walked the Nuns’ Path and would really recommend it for your trip to Madeira.